Friday, July 31, 2009

July 30, 2009

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999)
#76 on my Top 100 List
So many things to say, so little time. The United States is fighting with Canada, parents are killing people over naughty language, and Satan is the most sympathetic character in the whole thing. In fact, during his ballad about desiring to live above ground, the background vocals are provided by the poor souls being tortured in hell. The film references Les Miserables, Patton, The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and others, and includes characters from most of South Park thus far. It's song "Blame Canada" was nominated for Best Song and Robin Williams' performance at the Academy Awards was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. The Radio City Rockettes come out dressed as mounties! Finally, the movie features one thing that, as far as I know, is a South Park first: Kenny speaks!
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 29, 2009

The Aristocats (1970)
There seems to be a clear division between Disney's "people movies" (all of the Princess movies, plus movies like Peter Pan, Mulan, and Alice in Wonderland) and the "animal movies" (ie. 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, and Bambi). It also seems like people usually like one group significantly better than the other. I really love all Disney movies, but although The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie, I think I am partial to the animal ones. This one follows a family of cats - a departure from the usual dogs or mice, plus a change from cats being the manifestation of evil like in Cinderella - who are kidnapped from their wealthy home and left for dead in the French countryside. Sounds emo, but never fear - an alley cat with a heart of gold is here to save the day, voiced by my all-time favorite Disney voice actor, Phil Harris.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 28, 2009

The Beach (2000)
If you want a screwed-up movie, this is the one for you. An idyllic beach paradise on an island just off Thailand ends up being an escapist's haven where real life problems don't go away - they just get buried. Leonardo DiCaprio is, I still insist, a good actor and here with Danny Boyle to lead him, he makes going crazy onscreen fascinating for all of us to watch. In paradise apparently, sharks and gun-toting marijuana farmers are not the only things that one has to worry about. Robert Carlyle might show up and ninja-kill you in your dreams. Watch out.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 27, 2009

A Civil Action (1998)
Think Erin Brokovich but with John Travolta instead of Julia Roberts. They're both true stories about contaminated water, its effects on the health of small communities, and the tribulations of the law firms that try to make the situation right. This one has a very good supporting cast, including William H. Macy, Tony Shaloub, and Robert Duvall in an Oscar-nominated role. They're all lawyers and none are particularly sympathetic characters, but they are realistic characters and by the end, you're really feeling things right alongside them.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Monday, July 27, 2009

July 26, 2009

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
This one continues the tradition set by the first Austin Powers of breaking the fourth wall and including weird musical interludes. However, I like this one better than the first. That could be because I love Rob Lowe (a young Number Two) or because Starbucks is the front of Dr. Evil's evil organization (I do love Starbucks, but the idea of it being evil is hilarious) or it could be simply because I watched this one more when I was younger. Whether you like the movie or hate it, it did offer the world of pop culture Mini-Me and Fat Bastard, which I'm really not sure is a good thing or a bad thing. However, we do get to hear Mike Myers say that Mini-Me has a "creepy oompa-loompa vibe," which is really a great line. This is also the film where it becomes obvious how incompetent Dr. Evil really is - another great veiled reference to the "great" Bond villains of old. A lot of them really were terrible at being evil when you think about it. Finally, it includes an awesome De Lorean allusion and one of the most awkward and horrifying post-sex scenes in the history of film.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 25, 2009

Ocean's Eleven (2001)
I should warn you that I watched this late at night with a lot of people and I can never, ever watch it again now. But I had seen it before, so I'm going to ignore the things that were said and try to review it from other viewings. So yes, I'll not be mentioning any moustaches or man-crushes on Matt Damon. I haven't been listing remakes as "other adaptations" but I think it's worth noting that this is a remake of the original Rat Pack movie from 1960. The ensemble is great, including Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, and Bernie Mac alongside the three big names of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. For a comedy, it's also remarkably hard to figure out how they actually pull off the heist - it definitely requires multiple viewings.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 24, 2009

Dogma (1999)
It's been a few days now since I saw this movie and I still don't really know what to think. I went into it not expecting to like it, since the only other Kevin Smith film I had seen was Mallrats and I was definitely not impressed. But this one has a concept behind it and I feel like that's what made it work. The cast is awesome, especially Alan Rickman as the "voice of God" (I've discovered that I'll watch anything if Alan Rickman is in it, which is as it should be). I'm listing it as comedy and drama, which I don't think I've ever done before, because I honestly can't classify it as one or the other. Just watch it - it's worth it.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 23, 2009

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Now this was when Mike Myers was funny. The movie itself is funnier if you are familiar with the James Bond films (then you can catch the references to such well-known characters as Blofeld, Oddjob, and Pussy Galore) but even if you've never seen a Bond film in your life, this one's still worth checking out. The character of Basil Exposition - the Ministry of Defense agent who tells Austin what's what - is brilliant. It lets them get away with including tons of exposition and not making it feel weird. Myers pulls off playing both Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, though I really enjoy the second film when Rob Lowe shows up as a young Robert Wagner. Satires are made to poke fun at everything else and this one doesn't disappoint. It does have a strange habit of separating scenes with odd musical interludes featuring a group called Ming Tea and also occasionally breaks the fourth wall, but it fits. Seth Green is great as Dr. Evil's estranged son Scott Evil and watch for cameos by Carrie Fisher and Will Farrell. Also, do the fembots remind anyone else of the number six Cylon?
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 22, 2009

Running With Scissors (2006)
A movie based on a best-selling memoir starring Annette Benning, Brian Cox, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Alec Baldwin must be good...right? Wrong. Augusten Burroughs' life was a terrible and confusing mess, but that doesn't mean that the movie about it also needs to be a terrible and confusing mess. There are no sympathetic characters, not even really young Augusten himself. Storylines begin but go nowhere, characters flit in and out with no explanation, and questions are asked that are never answered.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

July 21, 2009

Godzilla 1985 (1984)
Before the actual entry, here's a note about the title vs. the release date: this film was originally released in Japan under the title The Return of Godzilla in 1984. Then a year later, it was released in the US with the new title. Since I own the US version, that's the title I'm going with.
So here's the sequel to the original Godzilla that ended with our beloved giant lizard being disintegrated at the bottom of the ocean. And now he's back by...magic? Who cares - Godzilla always comes back! This one has a much different feel than the first one - it's almost as though Godzilla is a sympathetic character. He's awoken from his sleep on the ocean floor and, hungry for nuclear radiation (what else?), goes to snack on Tokyo. At which point, huge loudspeakers in the city warn people that he's coming and that "this is not a drill." I was sidetracked for a good ten minutes speculating what a Godzilla Drill must look like. The Japanese throw everything they have at him, including tanks and airplanes, but this is not King Kong we're dealing with. This is Godzilla, who is much more badass, and the only thing that the humans accomplish is to seriously make him angry. Understandably, he goes after more of Tokyo. The end, when they finally do defeat him, is actually sort of sad. Poor Godzilla. But don't worry, he resurrects soon enough to fight a giant mutated rose bush named Biolante. But that's another entry.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 20, 2009

Lake Placid (1999)
I'm a little ashamed to admit that I thought this movie was kind of fun. It's completely ludicrous since it involves a giant crocodile that somehow ends up in a lake in upstate Maine, but it's not as terrible as I thought it would be. Think Jaws but with crocs and nowhere near the scare factor. Plus, Mad-Eye Moody is in it and he's hysterical. I was definitely amused, plus it's only an hour and twenty minutes, so it doesn't drag on for ever and ever.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

July 19, 2009

Fire on the Amazon (1993)
A very young Sandra Bullock and some guy who has never appeared in anything else tackle clear cutters in the Amazon. There are run ins with native tribes and boat capsizes and shootings. Somehow they end up in jail. Then it turns out that everyone's a bad guy, including who they thought were good guys, and everyone who isn't a bad guy ends up dead. The end. Not a stellar film.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 18, 2009

From Hell (2001)
Say what you want about Heather Graham - actually, I'll say it for you. She's a terrible actress. But if you can look past her performance, this is actually a really good movie. The directors spent a lot of time building sets that were as close to exact replicas of the locations of the Ripper murders as they could get based on limited photographs and references. The real Frederick Abberline didn't get opium-induced visions (as far as I know) but anytime you want to show Johnny Depp in a bathtub smoking opium in a movie is okay with me. The Jack the Ripper theory that they're working off of sounds completely ridiculous, but apparently it's one of the more widely accepted ones. Watch and make the call for yourself, but be warned of a few things first. It's not a movie for the faint-hearted and it doesn't exactly follow the accepted course of history.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 17, 2009

An Ideal Husband (1999)
When an old school rival shows up with a damaging secret against you husband...well, Kat put it well: hijinks ensue. All of the leads were great, though Rupert Everett has still not managed to convince me that he's straight. Ever. It's interesting that they put Cate Blanchett and Minnie Driver, as the sympathetic characters, in beautiful dresses, while they put Julianne Moore, the bad guy, in horrid ill-fitting clothes. Her costumes are still befitting for a lady of the time period - they just aren't pretty like the others. It's a subtle distinction, but one that definitely enhances the sides in the movie. Jeremy Northam is adorable, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who he reminded me of. It's David Wenham, in case you were curious.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 16, 2009

My Sister's Keeper (2009)
Based on a popular book, which I will admit I have never read nor do I plan to read, I was sort of surprised that I liked this movie. I knew that they had changed the ending from the original, so when I got home this afternoon, I looked up the book ending. Way to be emo, Jodi Picoult! I like the movie's ending better. It's still not happy, but it's a different sort of sad. I've been a fan of Abigail Breslin since she was a little kid in Signs and she does a nice job in this movie. Cameron Diaz and Alec Baldwin and the rest of the cast are okay, but Breslin and the girl who plays her sister dying of cancer are the real stars. I cried through most of the movie, but it's one of those that you really have to be tough not to.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 15, 2009

Elephant (2003)
Someone should tell Gus Van Sant that staring at the back of characters' heads as they walk through the school is not effective. Van Sant's filmmaking track record is spotty at best. He made Good Will Hunting, but then a year later thought it was a good idea to remake Psycho. He made this boring movie, but he also made Milk. So I'm really not sure what to think about him. In this one, he spends the first hour and ten minutes of an hour and twenty minute film trying to set up the characters and build tension, but really all he achieves is to lose his audience due to lack of action. Nothing happens! Also, he chooses to score the film with Beethoven's "Fur Elise" and "Moonlight Sonata," both of which are beautiful, calming pieces of music that distract the viewers into a zoned oblivion.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bonus Midnight Movie

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Hmm...where to begin. For the majority of this movie, I really liked it. There were little things that bothered me, but nothing too major. Then, the closer it got to the end, the more it started to fall apart. Here are my major dislikes. First, they cut out the majority of the last chapter of the book. You know, the one that features a major school-wide ceremony? No ceremony in the movie. Second, there is a very long list of characters that were drastically underused including: Mrs. Weasley, Fred and George Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Remus Lupin, Tonks, and Hagrid. Plus, I think that Narcissa Malfoy and Romilda Vane were both badly miscast. Third, the Harry and Ginny relationship was built up quite a bit, but the payoff definitely left something to be desired. And finally, the Burrow?? I know it sounds like I didn't like the movie at all, but that's not true. It was (for the first part anyway) pretty true to the book and the parts could be made so were very funny. I still love the job that David Yates is doing, though he seemed to be channeling Alfonso Cuaron's werewolf when he designed the Inferi. I still like the fifth film best, but for the most part, I enjoyed this as well.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 14, 2009

Antz (1998)
I liked this movie a lot when I was a kid, before I could realize that it's just Woody Allen playing himself again, just an ant version of himself. He spends the entire film whining and moping and complaining about how his life isn't what he wanted and that there's nothing he can do about it. There is a pretty good voice cast, including Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken, and Danny Glover, but the main character's whining just gets to be too much by the end.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

July 13, 2009

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
#20 on my Top 100 List
By far my favorite of the Harry Potter movies. I love the new direction that director David Yates takes the series and I'm very happy that (I think) he's staying on to finish out with the adaptation of book six and both parts of seven. Nearly all of my favorite parts of this very long book made it into the film, not least of which Dumbledore's Army and the Weasley twins' spectacular departure from Hogwarts. My one complaint is that there is far too little shown of the actual Order of the Phoenix - especially new characters Nymphadora Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt, as well as returning character Remus Lupin. That being said, when they do show up at the battle in the end, it's pretty frakking amazing.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12, 2009

Sex Drive (2008)
Road trip movie meets teenage sex comedy. The results are not as good as you would think. Seth Green is hysterical, as advertised, as the Amish mechanic, but the rest of the movie doesn't quite make up for the fact that he's only in 20 minutes worth. Ridiculous situation follows ridiculous situation until there is nothing believable or really amusing about it.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

July 11, 2009

Daylight (1996)
Watching Sylvester Stallone trying to act is painful. Besides that, this movie is decent. It's different from other disaster thrillers in that it's a man-made disaster rather than a natural one (a getaway car crashes in a New York tunnel and sets off a chain reaction that collapses both ends of the tunnel and traps a handful of people inside) but the intensity is the same. I appreciate that not everyone makes it out alive, which adds a tiny glimmer of realism to an otherwise ridiculous film. The Oscar nom is a technical nom, in case anyone was curious. Watch for pre-Lord of the Rings Viggo Mortensen, but don't get too attached.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 10, 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009)
This is sort of like Can't Hardly Wait meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. It's a newer version of the "night after high school" story and the characters Dennis and Beth definitely reflect certain aspects of Preston and Amanda or Nick and Norah. The first half an hour or so is so awkward that it physically pains you, but as the characters get a little more comfortable with each other, so does the audience. I do appreciate the ending for its realism - such a night is great, but makes no real lasting changes.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 9, 2009

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
This is the original Hitchcock film - he actually went on to remake it in the 50s with Jimmy Stewart, but I have yet to watch that one. It's a little difficult for me to say much about any of these early Hitchcock films, since everything he made before Rebecca in 1940 was made in Great Britain and the quality of the surviving prints leaves something to be desired. They're not terrible, and God knows I've seen really old Hollywood movies that look worse, but you can see that the film itself had definitely began to deteriorate before it was preserved. The filming itself, as well as the editing, is very choppy, but it is important to remember that filmmaking was in its infancy still at this time, especially overseas. The one thing definitely worth watching in this is Peter Lorre - villainous acting at its finest.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 8, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
If you ever thought that having "locked-in syndrome," where your brain functions perfectly, but you're paralyzed and mute, would suck, I think you were right. If you ever thought that a movie all about being locked-in like that would be really boring, you were also right. I get that this movie was hailed as being different and beautifully-shot and moving - and it was all of that, especially because it was a true story. But it was, first and foremost, boring. The narrative jumps back and forth between before the main character has his stroke and after, which is okay but not really clearly illustrated. The after-the-stroke segments are really about him writing his autobiography by a speech therapist reading a list of letters until he blinks at one, then starting all over again. Tedious work for her and tedious to watch.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

July 7, 2009

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
#65 on my Top 100 List
Or you can call it Harry Potter and the Movie With The Bad Hair. Seriously, what is up with the hair?? Ron, the twins, Harry, Draco, Neville - practically every guy in the cast was subjected to terrible hair styles. All, of course, except Cedric Diggory. You all remember Robert Pattinson before he was Edward Cullen? If you don't, watch this movie. This is one of those movies that I wish would change every time I watch it. Every time Cedric goes to put his name in the Goblet of Fire, I wish and hope that this time, he won't. And of course, he does. And you all know what happens. One thing I do appreciate about this HP installment, both in the book and the movie, is that the death of you-know-who (not Voldemort) is not drawn out or dramatized or anything. It happens before Harry knows it's happening. It's definitely a dose of realism. This one also seems to incorporate more of life at a boarding school than the previous ones and it's all due to director Mike Newell.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6, 2009

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
In our quest to watch all five preceding Harry Potter films before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is released next week, we have come to...this. Be warned. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite Harry book and I am not happy with the way they made this movie. At. All. Basically, there are a lot of things that would have mildly irritated me about the way that the books have been translated into films and they all happen in this movie. Exhibit A: the new Dumbledore. I understand that Richard Harris passed away, but Michael Gambon (as good as he is) is just not Dumbledore. Exhibit B: lack of continuity. I am a continuity person by trade (something to that effect is usually my job on film sets) and you can't change the entire set from movie 2 to movie 3 and expect me to just accept that it's the same place. Exhibit C: the pacing. This movie too choppy, choosing to not show much of the action and fit the details in by having Harry, Ron, and Hermione walking through the castle talking about something that happened. Show, don't tell. Exhibit D: the werewolf. Don't even get me started. There's more (like David Thewlis being cast as Remus Lupin - didn't like him at first but I'm used to it now. He's just not how I pictured Lupin in my head) but I think that's enough of my rant for now.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)
This is an Oscar bait movie. It's an early Oscar bait movie, granted, but I'm thinking that this one will show up on a nominations list early next year. Overall, I liked it. The music is very very strange - in some places it's perfect and in others it is so misplaced that I swear whoever was responsible must have been asleep. I loved the cast - besides the three leads, several interesting faces popped up in supporting roles from Billy Crudup and David Wenham to Emilie de Ravin and Shawn Hatosy. The story is interesting in that it paints John Dillinger and his gang truly as a Robin Hood-esque figure who was pursued by the law by beloved of the public. Johnny Depp as Dillinger is truly enjoyable to watch. Beware, though, that Michael Mann seems to be a fan of the hand-held camera work.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 4, 2009

The Mummy Returns (2001)
#58 on my Top 100 List
This movie takes place 9 years after the first one - Rick and Evelyn are married and the characters do manage to retain their chemistry. Their son, Alex, gives Jonathan a nice character counterpoint and the latter seems to fit better in this one than in the first one. The prologues in these two movies are my favorite parts - in the first one, it follows Imhotep and Anck-su-namun in their forbidden love and in the second one, it shows the Scorpion King as he makes his deal with the god Anubis. Plus Oded Fehr narrates both of them and he's sort of like Matthew Goode - I could listen to him talk forever. This movie, though, also goes back to the story of Imhotep and Anck-su-namun as well to show more of the details of their lives, which also of course affect our heroes. The attention to detail in both plot and design in the Ancient Egypt sequences I think surpasses the rest of the movie. Of course there are some problems - there were no sais in Egypt and the reincarnated princess/Medjai thing is a little far-fetched - but it's great fun. And in the end, the audience ends up feeling bad for Imhotep as he loses the one thing that was the reason for his cursed existance.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

July 3, 2009

Enchanted (2007)
Remember how I said that Hollywood is good at poking fun at itself? Disney's even better. This movie is great in so many ways. It takes all of the saccharine-sweet things about Disney and parodies them and at the same time, pays a nice homage to all of the old classic Disney movies, including references to Dumbo, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. When it came out, I was ecstatic to see the return to hand-drawn animation (and am even more pumped about The Princess and the Frog later this year!!) and the translation of cartoon to actor and back again is pretty dead on. It's a little bit of a twisted fairy tale in that people don't end up with who they're necessarily set up to be with, but it's got a beautiful princess, a handsome prince, catchy songs, talking animals, and a fearsome villain, so really, that's all it needs. Poor Timothy Spall has seemed to be stuck in the villain roles, but he plays Wormtail so well in Harry Potter that it makes sense.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

July 2, 2009

Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
#51 on my Top 100 List
I've just learned that a remake of this movie is due to come out in 2011 and that makes me very, very sad. This is my absolute favorite of the classic Universal Monster Movies and also the last, most of them having been made in the 30s. It looks at evolution, archeology, and issues of intrusion into nature, while at the same time maintaining audience sympathy for both the scientists AND the Creature himself. The underwater photography is beautiful and though the Creature looks sort of ridiculous now, it was pretty impressive for 1954. It's one of the only Universal Monster Movies not to bank on a horror character actor in the role of the monster and there is no denying that the phrase "creature from the black lagoon" has made its definite mark on our popular lexicon even today.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

July 1, 2009

The Presidio (1988)
This movie reminds me of something, but I can't place what. I hate it when that happens. Mark Harmon is great as a young San Francisco police officer assigned to solve the murder of his old army MP partner, but it's weird not seeing him completely in charge (you still don't screw with him, though). This movie starts out as a police/army drama and ends up being something quite different in the end - not totally successful, but definitely not bad either. It keeps you guessing and pays off in the end for the audience.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

June 30, 2009

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
#66 on my Top 100 List
It's like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider but with zombies and Oded Fehr - what's not to love? I really do love Oded Fehr and he's never hotter than when he's kicking ass, whether it be zombies or mummies (like in the Mummy movies). The movie has some continuity issues, as well as costuming challenges - it tries to stay as true to the video game as possible, but some of those clothes they put on video game women defy the laws of physics, so making them into real costumes for a movie is hard and usually comes out ridiculous looking. Umbrella Corporation, the bad guys in this universe, are 100% evil, which is kind of unrealistic, but they follow through on that in the movie - they don't frak around. Or bluff, as one unfortunate character learns late in the film. This one's the second of the three live action Resident Evil movies but I think it has the most complete story and feel.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

June 29, 2009

Volcano (1997)
I'm back! The Caribbean was awesome, but don't worry - I got my movie in every day. On the plane ride down, this movie kept me quite entertained. I know it's not a great movie, but I love it anyway. I used to live in Los Angeles right by the La Brea Tar Pits (where the titular volcano forms) and it's quite disconcerting to see my old neighborhood consumed by lava. It follows several obligatory conventions of the disaster movie, such as a dog needing to be rescued from a burning building, frequent Sudden Imminent Danger, and the noble self-sacrifice of a nameless public servant. It also, however, includes some things not usually seen: museum workers rescuing pieces of art from LACMA (Los Angeles County Art Museum) and cooperation between various disaster groups such as the USGS and the LAFD. It's a fairly positive image of how a major city might deal with a disaster. Plus, I adore Don Cheadle and think he's very good in this. Finally, the art direction is great in that it turns the city of Los Angeles into a winter wonderland carpeted with ash instead of snow.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars